The Roar
The Roar


A Beer With An All Black: Tuppy Diack

Roar Guru
9th June, 2015

‘Tuppy’ Diack is a name synonymous with Otago rugby. The first centurion for the province is a life member of the union and served as President.

However ‘Tuppy’ was christened Ernest Sinclair, just like his father – who was known to all as ‘Charlie.’

How did ‘Tuppy’ originate?

“Dad came home one day and said ‘poor Tuppence (two pence) hasn’t got a name yet’ and it was from there that I became known as ‘Tuppy’,” Diack recalls.

Charlie was an accomplished sportsman. He represented Southland in cricket, tennis, rugby and athletics. Like Tuppy, Charlie was a goal-kicking winger. He scored 154 points in 37 first class matches.

He later coached Southland to Ranfurly Shield success and was a selector-coach and vice-president for the Fijian Rugby Union.

Tuppy inherited his father’s sporting genes. At Gore High School, Tuppy was head boy, athletics champion and First XI cricket and First XV rugby captain.

In 1948, Tuppy played in the most incredible match in the school’s history. For the only time in over a century Gore defeated the mighty Southland Boys’ High School First XV, 31-8; Charlie had played for Southland in 1918 when they beat Gore by a hundred.


“We had a really good team”, Tuppy (who scored a try) recalls,

“Robin Archer played first-five and became an All Black, Wally Candy played for Wellington, Arthur McKeeken, Tommy Thompson and Ian Speden for Otago. Speden scored two tries and Thompson later founded the Police’s Armed Offenders Squad.”

After leaving school Tuppy completed a teaching degree in Dunedin. In 1951 he made his debut for Otago, and except for a short stint in Southland in 1954, he became a mainstay for the next 13 years.

From 1953 to 1960 he was a regular All Black trialist. The first national side he represented was the New Zealand Universities, who in 1956 famously conquered the Springboks.

All six players in the Varsity backline were or later became All Blacks. The forward pack boasted John Buxton, Bill Clark, Wilson Whineray and Des Webb.

The Springboks held the lead three times, but were overtaken 22-15. Diack scored a crucial try when he caught the defence asleep down the blindside.

Captain John Tanner sealed victory with a 60-metre run away from an intercept, but the most talked about moment was Ron Jarden’s 65-metre solo ‘try’ that wasn’t, where he beat six defenders on his way to the line.


Diack recalls the drama.

“It was an incredible game, the atmosphere at Athletic Park was deafening. We played like a team good enough to beat anybody in the world. I have to admit though that Ron Jarden stepped into touch before he scored his famous try that wasn’t. I rushed across to support him and distinctly remember him stepping on the touchline. The referee missed it. It was picked up by the tough judge and the try was disallowed.”

Diack was later a national selector and coach for the Universities. Between 1967 and 1975 they won 34 out of 42 matches. Diack was an early mentor for legendary wing Grant Batty.

A great mentor in Otago rugby was All Black Charlie Saxton. An army major in WWII, he became president of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in 1946 and coached Otago for eleven seasons.

Between 1947 and 1950 he guided Otago to 18 defences of the Ranfurly Shield. He also wrote the influential ABC of Rugby, a coaching book that stressed the three Ps – Position, Possession and Pace. Tuppy recalls Saxton was a real stickler for accuracy.

“Every Friday before a Saturday game at Carisbrook we would meet at 7pm to discuss tactics. Afterwards a few of the boys would rush to the cinema and catch the feature film they often showed at 7:30pm. One night a few of us showed up five minutes late and without saying a word Charlie extended the meeting until 8pm.”

“He was the boss. He had a huge knowledge of the game and commanded respect”, Tuppy says.


For most of 1957, Otago hardly played to the standards Saxton demanded. They only won six out of 15 games and used 46 players, including 18 debutants.

However, there was a notable 19-11 victory over Wellington to capture the Ranfurly Shield. Tuppy scored a try and kicked three goals in what proved to be Otago’s last successful challenge for the Log O’ Wood in 56 years or 22 attempts and 20,418 days!

On September 28, 1957, Otago lost to Taranaki 11-9 – blowing a nine-point lead. Saxton complained, “The better team lost.” All Blacks Ross Brown and Terry O’Sullivan scored tries for Taranaki.

In 2013, Otago won the Shield back off Waikato, 26-19.

What is Tuppy’s theory on Otago’s 56-year Ranfurly Shield hoodoo?

“I don’t know, but I was bloody happy when we won the thing back. I was screaming at the TV so much the neighbours were worried. I went to the stadium for the first defence and we lost by a point, one point.”

Between 1958 and 1960, Tuppy was the leading points scorer in each season of first-class rugby. He scored 146 points in 1958, 159 in 1959 and 133 in 1960.


In 1959, when he scored all the points (including two tries) in New Zealand Universities’ 25-13 loss to the British Lions and kicked 14 points in Otago’s remarkable 26-8 win over the tourists’ three days later, the public clamour for his inclusion in the All Blacks could no longer be ignored.

He was selected for the first Test in Dunedin, but he had torn the ligaments in an ankle during the Otago game and found out later he had broken some small bones when he was double-tackled and a Lions forward fell across his leg.

Tuppy hobbled through the first training run on Tuesday and posed in the team photograph, but on Thursday morning he told the selectors he was not fit to play.

He sat in the stands and watched Don Clarke kick six penalties to cancel out the Lions four tries.

The referee was Alan Fleury, a Dunedin bank manager who Tuppy later did business with. Tuppy laughs, “He was a better referee than he was a bank manager.”

Tuppy had intensive treatment on his ankle and was included in the All Blacks to play in the second Test in Wellington a month later but, even then there were complications. Diack was a specialist left wing. The only problem was that Ralph Caulton, the other wing, was, too.

“Jack Sullivan, the coach, came up to us and said ‘what’s up with you guys?’ and I said ‘we’re both left wings.'”


It was eventually decided that Diack would play on the right wing. For him, this became a costly decision.

“All the play went to Ralph’s wing and he scored two tries. It was one of those games. I was frustrated. I felt I hadn’t done myself justice. Don Clarke wasn’t kicking well and Wilson Whineray [captain] told me I would take the next one if Don missed again, but he kicked the next one and that was that. And, of course, Don scored the match-winning try.”

The All Blacks won 11-8 and Tuppy swapped jerseys with Lions centre Malcolm Price. He still has the jersey at home. It proved to be the only Test he played.

Frank McMullen replaced Tuppy for the third Test, Caulton scored another two tries and the rest is history.

Though that’s not where the story ends for Tuppy.

He trained hard over summer and was desperately disappointed to miss the All Blacks’ 1960 tour of South Africa.

“I ran 10.1 seconds for the 100 yards at a meeting at Tuatapere on New Year’s Day. I was really disappointed to miss out. I thought I could have made a difference on that tour.”


Strapping Dennis Cameron from Mid-Canterbury was selected on the wing instead. Cameron was not a success on tour. He suffered a broken hand in the second of his two preliminary matches in Australia and did not appear in South Africa until the ninth match and by then he was clearly not in the running for a first team place.

In South Africa he played in only six matches and failed to score a try.

In fact, the very first try of the tour was scored by Wallaby Eddie Stapleton playing for the All Blacks against Queensland, such was the All Blacks injury crisis.

In 1963, Otago beat England 14-9 and Tuppy kicked a 50-yard penalty goal.

In 1964, Tuppy played his 100th game for Otago, a 6-3 win over Taranaki in New Plymouth. The Otago Rugby Football Union presented him with a silver tea service as a memento.

He retired later that year as Otago’s leading points scorer (746). He remained the leading points scorer until he was passed by All Blacks Laurie Mains (967) and Greg Cooper (1520).

He regards the 1959 Lions’ Tony O’Reilly and Peter Jackson, and 1956 Springbok Paul Johnstone, as the best international wings he opposed, and Ron Jarden (Wellington), Ray Todd (Southland) and Ross Smith (Canterbury) as the leading wings he played against at provincial level.


For 28 years Tuppy taught at John McGlashan College, including 13 years as the deputy headmaster. Tuppy laughs, “Dealing with the naughty boys was my job.”

Despite four hip replacement operations and two knee replacements, Tuppy was coaching into his eighties at the University club where he is a life member. He has strong views about the modern game.

He says the scrums are a “shambles” and the suggestion of Billy Bush to allow props to put their hand on the ground should be accepted. But Tuppy asks, “How can you get hold of a wetsuit?”

He also laments some modern back play.

“The forwards have developed their handling skills and athletic ability. But the backs are a lot more confrontational now, a lot like league, and a lot can’t kick off either foot. There aren’t the evasive, elusive runners there used to be.”

“There is not so much space for backs these days and there is a lot of aimless kicking. I’m surprised they don’t make more use of the blindside.”

Tuppy and his wife of 62 years, Margaret, have three children. They live quietly in retirement at St. Clair.